A changing exhibit at Museo Alameda Conjunto focused on the Latino music with roots in German polka.
Entry Point: Mi Tierra Café
A festive vibe dominates Mi Tierra--red, white, and green paper decorations, tiny lights, and blankets all swag from the ceiling. Mariachi players sway among the tables. Its location on Market Square guarantees surges of tourists, but locals still pack in too. Because Mi Tierra opened in 1941, it’s had practice perfecting Enchiladas Verdes de Pollo (a green tomatillo sauce and chicken). 218 Produce Row; www.mitierracafe.com or (210) 225-1262.
Dig a Little Deeper: Taco Taco Café and Los Valles Fruits and Foods
Taco Taco Café is totally insider. San Antonio natives cram into this tiny breakfast taco joint daily for the chilaquiles (eggs with tortilla strips, peppers, spices, tomatoes, and cheese). 145 East Hildebrand Avenue; (210) 822-9533. With the spices still on your tongue, cool off with a fruit cup dusted with chili powder from Los Valles Fruits and Foods. Unusually refreshing. 3915 Nogalitos Street; (210) 927-9595.
Entry Point: Mission San José
The San Antonio missions (example: The Alamo was founded as the Mission San Antonio de Valero in 1718) don’t just exist as relics. Many are still active Catholic parishes, vital lynchpins in the community. One of the most unique ways to experience this is by attending a noon mariachi Mass on Sundays at the Mission San José Catholic Church. The guitar and trumpet players and singers perform the songs in Spanish, while the priest conducts the Mass in English. The parish welcomes anyone from any denomination. 6701 San José Drive. Church: www.sanjosemissionchurch.org or (210) 922-0543. National park site: www.nps.gov/saan or (210) 932-1001.
Dig a Little Deeper: Papa Jim’s Botanica
Folk healing remains an integral part of the Latino culture, and botanicas are traditionally community hubs and retail outlets for alternative herbal medicines. At first pass, Papa Jim’s Botanica appears to be a pharmacy for the superstitious, selling coyote teeth to prevent legal troubles or floor cleaners designed to remove jinxes. You can even find spell books and a “mojo bag” meant to bring the possessor good luck. But you’ll also discover amulets from multiple religions: Roman Catholic crucifixes sit beside American Indian dreamcatchers, Stars of David beside voodoo dolls. 5630 South Flores Street; www.papajimsbotanica.com or (210) 922-6665.